The Ultimate Mutiny of 1857 Walk
This 5 Kms walk is best done in the morning when the weather is cool. The walk takes you through the northern Ridge in Delhi. Moneyed residents of the Civil Lines area in Delhi consider themselves true Delhi-ites and go to the ridge for their morning walks.
I used to walk here every morning during my childhood completely oblivious to the historical sights in this area or the part this area played in India’s long struggle for Independence.
The Mutiny of 1857 in Delhi
The mutiny of 1857 was the closest India came to defeating the East India company. The revolt started in May 1857 and ended 13 months later in June 1858. A lot of the important sights from this time period and even earlier are at the Northern Ridge area in Delhi. The revolt was largely in northern India. Southern India was peaceful during this time.
The victory of the company led to the end of Company rule of India. The rule was transferred to the British crown. The victory also led to the end of the Mughal and Maratha rule in India.
The revolt started in Meerut. About 60kms from Delhi as a sepoy mutiny. The residents of shahjahanabad or present day Chandni Chowk and the Civil Lines area massacred Christians, British and European residents in that area and drove them out of Delhi.
The British were slow to react since they were engaged in the Crimean war with Russia and were also sending troops to China. These troops were later re routed to help crush the rebellion in India.
Walking Map of the mutiny of 1857
Follow the associated map and take the road into the ridge from the Vidhan Sabha Metro station on the yellow line. Beware of the many monkeys in this area. They are used to human presence.
It’s hard to imagine today that the British took refuge in this area. Women and children camped at the flag staff for many months waiting for John Nicholson’s army. This army was largely comprised of Sikh and Pashtun soldiers
Delhi locals out for morning walk at the Ridge
The Flagstaff Tower where British took refuge
Women and children waited for reinforcements to arrive in this tower.
The Guard house
The guard house: The arms and ammunition storage building for the army.
Firoze shah Tughlaq used to visit the ridge for hunting 500 years before the rebellion took place. There are hunting lodges and towers build during the 1300s. He also rebuilt the Hauz Khas covered in the Hauz Khas walk. Old mosque were used to station guns to quell the rebellion
Another Tughlaq era building with tapered minarets. This was a hunting lodge for the king but again used by the British to break the siege of Delhi. People say a Sufi saint (Pir) used to live here and just vanished one day (gayab)
This old step well next to the Hindu Rao hospital now lies in shambles and completely surprises you as you walk towards the hospital. There are lots of myths associated with this baoli including tales of a tunnel that goes from here to Agra, which is 100s of miles away.
Hindu Rao hospital and the role of William Frazer
HIndu Rao was the brother in law of Daulat Rao Scindia. Daulat Rao’s son asked his uncle to leave Gwalior in the 1830s. He bought William Frazer’s house in Delhi. William was a Scotsman who lived in Delhi. He was killed in 1836. One successful attempt of many. Nawab sham sud din khan allegedly hired someone to kill him. The Nawab was hanged for this crime. This led to an outcry and William’s grave is in St. James’ church was destroyed.
Momin khan Momin in his letters after frazer’s death said that Fraser took so much land away from people. I hope he does not live peacefully in his afterlife. The destruction of his grave supposedly robbed him of peace in his afterlife. William dalrymple, the writer has a very romantic view of William Fraser. Fraser had married an Indian and dressed in Indian clothes.
Fraser built this mansion where the hospital is today. This became an important landmark in 1857 and it became the headquarters of the revolt and is the Hindu Rao house.
The Ashoka pillar from 3BC just opposite the Hindu Rao hospital is the most surprising and the oldest artefact you’ll see on this walk
Ashoka put up his edicts called Dhamma, everywhere in his empire. Ashoka was one of the most high profile, early Buddhist follower in India. They were inscribed on rocks or pillars. This pillar was moved by Firoze shah Tughlaq to Delhi. The movement of this pillar from Meerut, which is 60kms away is described in Futu Ha e Firozeshahi. It was bundled up in semal and put on rollers and dragged. They loaded on a boat to complete its journey. Froze shah Tughlaq put it close to his hunting lodge that we’ve covered in this walk.
An explosion broke in into pieces. Now the inscribed rock is in a Calcutta museum. The pillar is here.
Jeetgarh or mutiny memorial
The gothic structure built with red sandstone was built by the British once the revolt was quelled. When India became independent, this symbol, on the 25th anniversary of Indian independence was reclaimed as a monument for those who died fighting for India instead of for those who quelled the rebellion.